We’re still two years out from choosing a new president, but the 2014 election is no snooze.

Several high-stakes races are in play, including the U.S. Senate, judicial and Wake County contests. Several legislative seats are up, but even with more Democratic wins, which could easily happen, it will be mathematically unlikely for the party to gain the upper hand.

Now that private money can bankroll judicial elections, the state’s highest courtssupreme and appellateare subject to political influence. There also seems to be inordinate interest in becoming a judge: 19 candidates are running for the seat formerly held by Mark Martin. He was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory as Chief Justice to the state supreme court earlier this year.

In 2011–2012, with fewer candidates, conservative groups spent $2.9 million on state judicial races. Judges can claim they are immune from financial influence in their rulings and constitutional interpretations on such key issues as voting rights and same-sex marriage. Do we believe them? No.

Meanwhile, Libertarian Sean Haugh could be the wild card in the U.S. Senate race, peeling off enough disenchanted votersfrom both partiesto affect the outcome of the race. He’s a smart guy, and works a day job as a pizza delivery guy, which frees his mind to contemplate public policy. His candidacy elicits legitimate political discussions in a race that is otherwise long on rhetoric.

And finally, Wake County.

Why doesn’t Wake County play well with others? The lack of public-school funding is a travesty. And while Durham and Orange counties are planning their light rail systems, Wake County’s discussions have derailed. The commission won’t even allow a referendum for voters to decide. Why? Because voters would probably say yes.

Sure, those of us living west of this political mess have our policy issues, but we do wonder what’s in the water in Wake County. Other than PCBs in Lake Crabtree.

This is the first general election in which several voting changes are in effect. There is no same-day registration during early voting (Oct. 23–Nov. 1, four days shorter than in 2013). Deadline to register to vote is Friday, Oct. 10, at 5 p.m. Deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 5 p.m.

Hear from candidates

The INDY is participating in two candidate forums on Monday, Sept. 29. One is at Flyleaf Books, 752 MLK Blvd., Chapel Hill from 7–8:30 p.m.

Orange County Commission

District 1: Mia Burroughs and Gary Kahn

N.C. House 56: Verla Insko

N.C. House 50: Graig Meyer

N.C. Senate 23: Valerie Foushee

Dave Carter has declined our invitation; Mary Lopez-Carter did not respond. The other forum focuses on Wake County candidates. It is co-sponsored by the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce, IN-PAC, the Triangle Community Coalition and Zeta Phi Beta. The forum will be held at the Holiday Inn, 930 Airport Blvd. in Morrisville.

These candidates have been invited:

Wake County Commision

District 1: Joe Bryan and Sig Hutchinson

District 2: Phillip Matthews and Matt Calabria

District 3: Rich Gianni and Jessica Holmes

District 7: Paul Coble and John Burns

N.C. Senate 16: Josh Stein and Molotov Mitchell

N.C. Senate 17: Tamara Barringer and Bryan Fulghum

N.C. House 40: Marilyn Avila and Margaret Broadwell

N.C. House 41: Tom Murry and Gale Adcock

These forums will be filmed and archived on our website, www.indyweek.com You can submit questions via the following submission form.

The INDY‘s endorsements issue publishes Wednesday, Oct. 22, the day before early voting begins. Candidate questionnaires can be found on our site. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, from 6:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m.